Many deaf children experience social isolation in school from their peers.The main social exclusion factors in school are:
• in classrooms –there is usually only deaf child in class or year group; the deaf child may not have one to one support; and they miss out on direct and indirect communication, i.e. banter and overhearing.
• break times – this can also happen outside the classroom, and is particularly noticeable in any team activity, i.e. games
• out of school friendships – if deaf children have to travel to resourced or Deaf schools the distance precludes them from building on relationships made in school. All deaf children experience communication issues in group situations which can make it very difficult to make meaningful friendships.
• language and culture – it is hard to acquire a natural culture with no deaf peers and adults in school.
So far we have concentrated on emotional well being. There is limited research on academic prowess, but it appears that little has improved since Conran’s research in 1986, which found that deaf children leaving school have an average reading age of 8.9 years. It is vital, therefore, that you ask for support for your deaf child, regardless of level of deafness. Any child with a hearing loss (whether temporary or permanent) will struggle in mainstream schools without daily support in the classroom.
Indirect communication- research has shown that all children are exposed to information from birth, (unwritten curriculum) which is eleven times that spent in the classroom. Deaf children cannot access overheard or indirect communication fully and, therefore, do not have the exposure that hearing children have.
This means deaf children must be taught directly in school. There are various ways to do this:
- Have Teacher of Deaf support on one to one basis outside the national curriculum
- Have daily support with the national curriculum with communication aides: BSL/English, (Communication Support Workers or CSWs) and/ or English (Notetakers).
DEX has studied the issue of bilingualism in depth; it believes that deaf children should be bilingual in English and BSL. There is much research into the benefits for bilinguals, regardless of the languages they use, i.e. Urdu and English, or Welsh and English in the UK. DEX has worked closely with the Welsh Language Board on its campaign to promote the Welsh language in Wales, and is supported by the Board in our campaign.